The isolated world of Ladakh is set to be opened up for all weather if a push for accessibility by a group of youth is successful. A group of youth mostly from the twin districts of Ladakh i.e. Leh and Kargil, are calling for the quick construction of the all-weather Zojila tunnel connecting Ladakh to Kashmir valley and the outer world.
The youth formed a focus group called Zojila Watch, to create greater urgency for the tunnel, to foresee the developments and to disseminate the information to the local and others so as to generate a wider public awareness of the need for it.
The group have written to the President of India through an online campaign to push for greater accessibility to the Ladakh area.
“Many young people got behind the initiative and wrote to the presidents online,” the group states in an online group posting.
Zojila Watch continue to campaign online through social networking sites like Facebook, which has over 500 members. One of the member of the group said, it was the ideal place for the group to mobilise youths working and studying in different parts of the country on a common platform and share issues related to the Zojila tunnel.
The founding members of the group include Javed Naqi (Kindling Accessibility Initiatives in Ladakh/JNU), Mustafa Haji (Nalsar University of Law), Muzaffar Hussain (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Shahnawaz Ali (Aligarh Muslim University), Shakeel Ahmad (University of Jammu), Syed Sajjad (CHUMS Kargil).
Members also include academicians, journalists, well-known activists including Prof. Lakhan Gusain (John Hopkins University, USA), Kate Shuttleworth (Journalist and Activist, New Zealand), Wilfred D’ Costa (General Secretary, Indian Social Action Forum), Narendra Chowdhary (Senior Journalist and Vice President PUCL, AP), Zaheer A Bagh (TV Today Network), Meha Dixit (Independent Freelancer) and Prakash Ray (Activist and Researcher, Jawaharlal Nehru University).
Ladakh is connected to the Kashmir valley and rest of the world via Zojila pass, which becomes inaccessible for six months in winters due to heavy snowfall. This isolation results in great loses in terms of education, health, rural infrastructure and most importantly sustainability. The people of Ladakhi especially Kargil have been demanding construction of a tunnel through the Zojila pass or an all weather road for decades. Even almost four years since the Zojila tunnel project was approved yet not much has been done and Ladakh continues to be isolated from the outer world.
(Writer is founder and working committee member of ZOJILA WATCH)